Life is truly a feast, a huge smorgasbord spread out before us, as far as the eye can see, a multitude of good things free for the taking. Some foods tempt us with an alluring aroma, the scent wafting up from the plate and swirling around our head, or arranged on the plate gorgeous to look at, delectable treats promising a moment of utter pleasure. We stand before the spread, plate in hand, hovering over each and every morsel, wanting to taste, savor, enjoy, knowing full well that we must pick and choose, understanding that there is too much on the table for any one person to rationally, sanely enjoy. We are so hungry, so excited, ready to grab, live life to the fullest.
Some things are sweet like a huge dessert buffet covered with cakes and bonbons, chocolate fountains and dainty petit fours graced with swags and shiny glazes, filled with smooth creams or dazzling us with spun sugar beauty. Life can be oh so sweet, babies born, summer vacations in the sunshine, running barefoot on the beach, snuggling up in socks and sweaters in front of a blazing fire, sharing laughter and secrets with best friends. We lick our fingers and sigh, contented, blissfully wishing that we could return to this ambrosial banquet every morning and feast only on what makes us truly happy.
Yet as we walk along the edge of this luscious feast and glance at one offering after the other trying to decide, we know that although we have visions of joyous festivity and living forever on the good things life has to offer, we know deep in our souls that we can’t always stand at the dessert bar. We have to admit that the feast that is life is not always laden with candy and cakes and, fork poised above each dish, we must take our chances, risk the bad in order to taste the good.
Some things are sour, popped into our mouth, lips pucker and we jump back in surprise, the tart not quite balanced out with enough sweet, the fall not cushioned with enough whipped cream; friendships gone sour, saying good bye, hopes of good report cards fluttering off in the breeze as we pull the card out of the envelope, being pushed around by the less than kind, the less than sweet. Yet tangy we like, tangy is good, that sweet and sour combination that makes our taste buds dance, our hearts sing in joy, a shindig with music and laughter, lemon meringue pie and those sour balls and Jolly Ranchers that dad always brought home.
Or spicy, hot and exotic, hinting at far off lands and hidden mysteries, excitement and adventure. Although our eyes may water, these are tears mingled with pleasure, hands clapping as we look for more, trips to foreign countries only dreamed of, the hot rush of love at first sight, gobbled up like so many curries and tagines, deep-fried accras and seafood creole over rice.
Savory, salty, like seawater washing over us, it could be warm and soothing like hot pretzels eaten on the boardwalk or a crockpot full of steaming homemade stew, comforting us on a rainy day. But it could be cold, the waves pounding on the beach, clouds rushing through the sky, foretelling a storm. We dive below the surface and come up choking on a mouthful of salty water like so many tears, the darkness wrapping around us as we struggle for breath, the salty taste lingering as we paddle towards the shore. Nothing drastic, nothing we won’t forget once we light the bonfire, the salty taste of roasting sausages bringing the smiles back.
Sometimes we bite into a delicacy that looks promising only to discover too late the bitterness hidden under the pretty aspect, wrapping of golden pastry, the lovely arrangement on the serving platter. Eyes watering, we desperately grab a napkin thinking only to spit it out, banish it from our memory as quickly as we get rid of the bad taste in our mouth, hoping no one is watching. Or dry, bone dry and brittle, turning to ashes in our mouth, wishing that we had never even come. We wonder at how we could have been taken in, who could have played such a nasty trick, our heart breaking with sadness, yet furious at being burned, at being tempted by the scrumptious first course, only to push our plate away from us in disgust or in anger and hurt.
All we can hope for is that the bitter is mingled with the sweet, a sad smile on our lips, happy memories making the bitter ones easier to swallow, the sweet taste lingering on. Life is bittersweet.
Michael S Schler
April 9, 1957 - September 15, 2009